Toni Vivier fears that her second baby, due in the depths of a Southland winter, could be born at a frosty - or snowy - roadside.

Following the birth of baby Levi to Amanda McIvor in an ambulance near Lumsden last month, Vivier believes it is a real risk for the birth of her second child.

Another family is said to be moving out of the district temporarily for the mother to give birth in an area with better maternity services.

The Fiordland Families Network, speaking ahead of a parliamentary report expected on Wednesday, says Vivier is one of a number of women in rural Southland who hold such fears after the downgrading of the Lumsden birthing unit to a "hub" in April.


Vivier gave birth to Hayley at the Lumsden unit in July 2016, just over three weeks prematurely, after a labour of four and a half hours.

"It was absolutely amazing. I couldn't fault it at all," Vivier said of the unit.

"[Hayley] was born in winter with snow on the ground so I was fortunate that we had the Lumsden Maternity Centre as it was a fast labour.

"This time, I'm concerned that if I don't make the distance that my baby will be born in the car and if we do make the distance, that we could be turned away due to the beds being full."

She is booked to give birth at the Winton primary birthing unit, about 90 minutes' drive from her home in good conditions.

Vivier felt let down by the Southern District Health Board's replacement of the Lumsden unit with a hub.

"It was a really good facility, well used. I don't see why they should have taken it away. It's an essential place not only for us in Te Anau, but for Kingston, Mossburn, Tuatapere."

Network chairwoman Anna Thomas said the Lumsden hub is a clinic for consultations during pregnancy. It contained emergency equipment for use if it was necessary for a woman to deliver there but it wasn't intended to be a delivery centre.


A hub is also planned for Te Anau but isn't fully functioning yet, Thomas said.

McIvor's delivery was meant to be at Southland Hospital. She lives between Mossburn and Te Anau and when in labour her midwife told her to go to Lumsden for an assessment.

There it was decided to take her to hospital by ambulance because of the lack of oxygen and other equipment at the hub and she gave birth near the town.

Thomas said the equipment was now in place and a birth had occurred at the hub.

Those two births had heightened community concerns about the closure of the Lumsden birthing unit.

"Some of our local women are worried that they could end up giving birth roadside and others are concerned if Southland Hospital or the other birthing units are full, that they may have to travel to Dunedin to give birth," said Thomas.

"One family has even started making arrangements to temporarily re-locate to another South Island centre, that is better equipped maternity-wise, to have their baby."

DHB officials were unavailable today. Chief executive Chris Fleming said, after McIvor's delivery, "We're currently implementing our network of services and monitoring its implementation and we'll review this incident as part of our continuing evaluation of services across the district".

Thomas said Parliament's health select committee is due to report on Wednesday following its hearings on the petition of Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker opposing the Lumsden downgrade.